Walkabouts and wonders

"A life not examined is a life not lived" – Socrates

Tag Archives: chance meetings

Down Malabar Hill

As I first looked over a map of Mumbai, I spied a word that held a strange magic for me – Malabar. In my childhood, HMS Malabar was the name of the Royal Naval station in Bermuda; the last remnants of its dockyard were part of a boy’s paradise of real and imagined dangers, amongst the abandoned buildings and rusting cranes, deep moats and empty magazines of Britain’s fortress of the Atlantic.

The view South East, to Old Mumbai.

The view South East, to Old Mumbai.

So, before I even really knew what it was, I was determined to visit this other Malabar and discover what might have linked the two places. I have to say that I haven’t yet discovered that link – it may after all have been no more than (navy) gin fuelled whimsy – but my afternoon walk provided some intriguing glimpses of life in one of the oldest parts of greater Mumbai.

The “Hanging Gardens” lie close to the summit of Malabar Hill, which turns out to contain the highest natural point above the city. Here, young and old stroll through flower beds and winding paths that give haze filled glimpses of the heart of the former capital of the Raj, below. The first steps away from these summit views took me through a children’s playground – there were certainly children around, but the swing area was entirely occupied by a group of young women, thoroughly enjoying an afternoon amongst friends.

Girls on the swings

Girls on the swings

A roadside cobbler - to his left the entrance to the Government guesthouse - a huge palace.

A roadside cobbler – to his left the entrance to the Government guesthouse – a huge palace.

The main road down the hill is a broad avenue between huge buildings, each with high gates and very serious looking security guards. Aware of how tense city police still after the terrorist attacks in 2010 and the riots in 2011, I refrain from transgressing public rule number one – no photographing government buildings. So, I have no pictures, save for this of a roadside cobbler.

But, with the help of a passing cab, I eventually reach the entrance to a narrow alley that I am told leads to the Banganga Tank, a large, open fresh-water reservoir, reputed in some local stories to be the centre of the earth, itself.

This gave me another small set of photos, making too many for this single posting, but see my second post of this series – “By Banganga Tank”.

Then, as I skirted around the side of the tank, I saw this small alleyway off to my left, through which I could just see the sea. As I walked down it, an older man, sitting with his family, caught my eye. Instinctively, I performed a Namaste, bowing slightly. At first surprised, he returned the traditional greeting to the spirit, and then rose to shake my hand, welcoming laughter in his eyes.

The alleyway to the sea

The alleyway to the sea

This mutual ceremony of dignity respect was, I think, the reason why no further heed was paid to either me or my camera as I took these last shots in the failing light of my first day here.

Sunset at the bottom of the hill

Sunset at the bottom of the hill

The other beach life of Mumbai

West along the shore


I had a lot of great times in the six weeks I spent in India and Nepal and there are still a couple of blogs I want to write about places that I went, but this one is a selection of some of the pictures I have of some of the people I met on my travels. Enough said.

A workman who passed me on my morning walk to the office.

A workman who passed me on my morning walk to the office.

A stall-holder in Pedong market

A stall-holder in Pedong market

A moment of relaxationfror mother and child - otherwise beggars in the main square at Bhaktapur.

Mother and child in the main square at Bhaktapur.  A little while earlier, they had been begging on the steet corner.

A monk in debate at the monastery in Lava.

Making a point – the daily debate at the monastery in Lava.

Preparing a rice paddy in Chitwan

Preparing a rice paddy in Chitwan

Getting up close to the action at a car workshop in Kalimpong

A car workshop in Kalimpong

A stall-holder in Kalimpong who regulalry supplied me with packets of cookies and bottles of water and pepsi.

My regular supplier of snacks and soft-drinks – a roadside shopkeeper in Kalimpong

Wash day in Kathmandu

Wash day in Kathmandu – just three more buckets out of shot.



Sometimes, you have to wonder what is going on. The other day, I went into London to meet a man who might be a source of work. We’d met about four years previously, and I remembered liking and being impressed by Hassan – He was obviously comfortable with himself and had a professional business that he was proud of , but it didn’t seem to own him, the way businesses often do. Anyway, we agreed to meet, we exchanged a few ideas, told each other a couple of stories from recent doings, then with smiles and best wishes, we were off to lunches in different places.

Except of course, I discovered that my intended lunch-appointment would have to wait as he was feeling unwell and was heading home for the day. Which is how I came to walk  into Pret a Manger to get a humus salad and coffee and had one of those encounters which just might change everything. And yes, it was with a woman, and yes, she was attractive, but actually you should stop thinking that right now, because that was not the point of the conversation at all. It was far, far more interesting than that, really!

For those of you who don’t know, Pret a Manger is a chain of salad bars with a great reputation for its food, but none for its seating. Typical of central London, the seating in this place consisted of a single window bar with high stools and no room for more than four people at a time. So, as I approached, the lady in the seat next to my intended spot had to shift her bag. And what a bag it was – huge, soft sided and difficult to move. And with my usual inhibitions temporarily distracted and being naturally a bit shallow, I commented on the size of the bag. Happily, she didn’t react by ignoring this “coot in a suit” – and told me it was an overnight bag which she was using on a rare trip into London.

And here is the serendipitous bit. Some of you might know that I have been thinking of writing about the experiences I had with getting a treatment for prostate cancer over the last few years. But the big issue has been to make a good and effective approach to the psychological impacts of the treatment and how poorly they are handled in our NHS system. And who is this woman I have sat next to? – Only a university lecturer and practicing psychiatrist who is advising a charity which promotes training for GPs on psychological support to their patients. And she was in London just that day, to deliver a keynote talk to the charity on this year’s work and plans. Serendipity, or what?

Sadly, we ran out of time to talk much, but I gave her my card and asked if she could contact me so I can write to her about aspects of the book as I work on it. I only hope I didn’t put her off by asking for her telephone number, first. Yes, I know; it probably did seem like I was trying to get her number for other reasons, but it didn’t occur to me until after we’d parted, by which time it was too late.

But, there we go. Oh, and if this subject interests you, you can find out more about the work of that charity at http://www.cwmt.org.uk/training/charlie-waller-institute/

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